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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
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"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Saturday, February 26, 2011

How to: Building With Battle Points

Alright, let's talk about battle point missions.

To start with, a tournament that uses battle points is NOT the uncompetitive fluff-love fest that most people make it out to be. I understand the problems with it, and no, it's not as fair/balanced as pure win loss draw, but it's the best way to do a tournament with a weird number of people.

For instance, 25. You can't just W/L that up the pyramid to one winner. Even worse is if you have a much large amount of people, like, say, 50. What, as a TO, are you gonna do, tell 14 players to get lost? It's the best system for running large, nebulous numbers of players.

Now, that doesn't mean it runs perfectly. Let's take a look at some reasons why:

First, modified KP is crap. It just is. This is for all you organizers out there, it DOESN'T WORK WELL. Stop trying it in every goddamn tournament! I get that you think it would be cool to make some units more valuable to change up the gameplay dynamic, but it doesn't really help because in a good army, everything is useful, and you'll be killing it all anyway. Modified KP makes sense if it could target hard-to-kill, low output units, but those don't exist in good matchups. All it does is randomly change the balance of builds.

Second, good for having objectives be "win by holding x amount more", and not "x battle points per objective held". I've seen that second one a lot, and it's terrible because it means that at the end of the game people will soften up and not take/block objectives like they would normally, because it holds no advantage to them. I actually, once, in a game stopped shooting a unit off an objective, because I had the other four secure with no unit to claim the fifth, and I wanted to make sure my sportsmanship score was good. Always have objectives that encourage doing better than the opponent, not just achieving x goal.

Now, where, in general, is the part where most battle point tournaments fall on their face?

Well, on points values for Massacres/Major wins, primarily.

Honestly, the correct way to do this is to simply lessen the gaps between victory tiers. Have massacre, major win, minor win, draw. Massacres always give 20, Majors give 18, minors give 16, and draws give 14. Loser always gets at least 10 points, 13 if it's a minor loss. That way, they're not just out of the tourney if they lose one game. We're basing on 10 for no real reason but to make people feel better about themselves, and to make the primary look really important for people's brain processing. Also makes losses feel a lot better.

Secondary should be worth about 4 points. This raises you up 2 victory levels, and isn't high enough that it artificially inflates massacres more than they already are. Oh, and if you massacre, the secondary is only worth 3 for you.

Tertiary shouldn't exist. Fuck tertiary. Three objectives is too many to try and concentrate on. Leave tertiary crap to battle point modifiers.

Ah, Battle Point Modifiers


These are hard to reasonably design, and organizers feel obligated to do new, interesting, unique ones for every mission. Reread that last sentence, and I think you'll see the problem. Yes, there are some good BPM, they're just hard to make. Try to follow these rules if you ever end up having to create them:
  1. BPM shouldn't be incidental. That is, they should never be "kill all of x type of unit", or "claim your home objective". Shit people are going to do anyway isn't worthy of award, and just ends up penalizing losers more, and rewarding massacres more.
  2. BPM shouldn't penalize any build over any other. That means no stuff like "kill this section of the force org" "blow up all dedicated transports" "Have more units in the opponent's deployment zone" etc.
  3. BPM shouldn't be built to reward massacres more. If getting a massacre means you also automatically get all the BPM, you're doing it wrong. Having a few like this is, of course, unavoidable and okay.
  4. BPM should be somewhat controllable by the player. If you know it's impossible to get one of the BPM before the game begins just because of an army build, it's not a good one.
  5. BPM should NEVER be stackable. IE you should never be able to get it more than once! If your descriptions starts with any variant of "+1 for each..." it is bad and should die.
  6. BPM can, and probably should, be consistent. It's okay to have the same BPM in every mission if they're well designed.
  7. Have no more than 5. 5 is a good number, and more than that and you can't really keep track.
Other than that, it should be fine. Don't stress too much, and try to create ones that encourage people to play in ways they normally wouldn't.

Alright, so where does that put us in terms of how people can score?
They can get 16-20 for a Primary win.
They can get 4 for a secondary. (3 if they massacres primary)
Up to 5 points from Battle Point modifiers.
That means, the best score for a round is 28, and the worst possible is 10. However, our variance is much smaller with this system than normal BP systems, because we're awarding massacres less, and still rewarding losses. Winning games is a critical component, but winning by a narrow margin is no longer nearly as devastating to your score.
Alright, now, let's design some example missions, so that I may try to put the money where my mouth is. We'll use the same format as the Feast of Blades, because I'm lazy and they're the ones who inspired this whole rant. Note that these aren't meant to be scenarios that are as close to balanced as possible- I am trying, instead, to make some decently built theme games and special and unusual scenarios for a fun tournament day. (Also, these were surprisingly fun to write, maybe I'll do more in the future.) I wanted to show that you can create missions that are outside of the normal book missions, but aren't terribly in favor of one side or the other, or are just BRB missions with one crappy twist. If you want balanced, even mission formats and deployments, go swipe the NOVA open missions and assign them battle point values. It's easy. After each mission, my design notes will be in blue.
First, your battle point modifiers, the same ones will be applied to every mission:
Attentive Command
+1 if your highest value unit survived
Clever Plan
+1 if you reserved at least 2 units. (A unit and it's dedicated transport count as 1 for purposes of this battle point modifier.)
Everywhere's a Bunker
+1 if you have nonvehicle units in at least 3 different pieces of area terrain at the end of the game.
Tactical Spacing
+1 if you leave at least 2" between each of your units during deployment. (You are only eligible for this if you have at least 3 units that are not starting the game in reserve.) Chaos Daemons must, after their first turn, have at least 8" between all of their units to qualify for this.
Brave, Possibly Stupid
+1 if none of your units made a voluntary "go to ground" this game.

Mission 1: The Long Fight
Not every battle is won decisively and quickly, and it is sometimes the case that a single fight may last days or even weeks. In warzones like these, the soldiers must continue to fight even as hours pass by and day turns to night, trying to kill the enemy and claim as much of the battlefield as they can.
Deployment: Pitched Battle.
Special Rules: Deep Strike, Scout, infiltrate, Reserves, Random Game Length, Seize the Initiative, Night Fight (Turns 4-7).
Primary objective: Kill Points. Note: Tabling your opponent WILL get you max points for this objective.
Massacre: Win by a 7+ Kill Point Lead
Major Victory: Win by a 4-6 Kill Point Lead
Minor Victory: Win by a 1-3 Kill Point Lead
Draw: Tie in Kill Points
Minor Loss: Lose by 1-3 Kill Points
Secondary objective: Table Quarters. (NOVA open style- claimed by having a majority VP value in the quarter, scoring units count as full strength even if they are not.)

Normal KP functions fine, and I've always been a fan of KP+Table Quarters, as they work well together- you try to take as much of the battlefield as you can, but it doesn't slow you down in your attempt to kill the enemy. Night Fight at the start of the game is worse than at the end for two reasons- 1.) There are more units on the table, so it slows the game more, and 2.) it puts shooting armies at a disadvantage by weakening their prime first strike turns. Late game, it adds a fun element that doesn't really screw anyone over.

Mission 2: Control Network
Sometimes, holding one area isn't enough- vast flows of power, information, and other resources travel through multiple sites to create a functioning network. The key to winning a war is not in the taking of individual components, but rather in seizing the network.

Deployment: Spearhead.
Special Rules: Deep Strike, Scout, infiltrate, Reserves, Random Game Length, Seize the Initiative.
Primary objective: Objectives
Each player places an objective 9" away from the center of the table. These objectives may not be within 12" of each other. These are the Control Objectives.
Each player then places two other objectives, following the normal rules for objective placement. These are the Secondary Objectives.
A player cannot score any secondary objectives unless he controls at least one primary objective. Primary objectives can only be claimed and contested by scoring units.
Massacre: Claim both primary objectives and at least 2 secondary.
Major Victory: Win by at least 2 objectives more than your opponent.
Minor Victory: Win by at least 1 objective.
Draw: Tie in objectives.
Minor Loss: Lose by 1 objective
Secondary objective: Kill Points. (Any amount over your opponent counts.) You do not automatically score this for tabling your opponent.

The intention here is to create one very "hot zone" for fighting and several smaller nodes that the players will have to skirmish over. The center objectives are only contestable by scoring units to ensure that players can't easily eliminate the other players entire ability to claim simply by moving any unit close to the objective. Kill points is a fine secondary in objective missions, as it encourages finishing off units. Kill Points as a primary should ALWAYS award a massacre for tabling the opponent, but as a secondary should not. The reason for this is to avoid having "table=all objective auto win" when we can.

Mission 3: Capture the Field!
There can be a million important locations on a battlefield- bunkers, ammunition dumps, communications relays, and even relic weapons from past wars. Victory is often achieved not by kill counts, but by how many of these resources can be captured and utilized.

Deployment: Pitched Battle.
Special Rules: Deep Strike, Scout, infiltrate, Reserves, Random Game Length, Seize the Initiative.
Primary objective: Objectives
Each player gets to place 6 objective markers. Unlike normal setup, these marker can be no closer than 7" to each other and the board edge, as opposed to 12".
Once an objective is claimed, it is "secured" and counts for that player until it is claimed by an enemy unit, even if the original unit that claimed it moves away. Any unit can forfeit shooting and running for a turn to claim an objective it is within 3" of, though normally scoring units do not have to do so and automatically secure any objective they end their turn within 3" of.
Objectives are contested normally.
Massacre: Claim at least 8 objectives.
Major Victory: Win by at least 4 objectives more than your opponent.
Minor Victory: Win by at least 1 objective.
Draw: Tie in objectives.
Minor Loss: Lose by 1 objective
Secondary objective: Kill Points. (Any amount over your opponent counts.) You do not automatically score this for tabling your opponent.

Kill points show up again to give a nice 2 objective and 2 KP symmetry I find so attractive. The crazyness of the primary is to force a VERY mobile game- since objectives can so easily trade hands, and don't need to be fortified with units, and because there are so many of them, it's in your best interest to claim some, and move on, while doing your best to stop the opponent from outmaneuvering you and getting at the ones you've left behind. I am aware it's full bore crazy, and I'm also most definitely trying it next chance I get.

Well, I'm done. I'm sure a lot of you have things to say about these missions, (so pile the hate high) and I'll be happy to field any questions/comments/complaints/swears in the comments. What would be even cooler would be if you guys posted what you think would make good missions and battle point modifiers down there.

And as a final note- I've actually talked to the guy who's organizing Feast of Blades, and I understand that the event missions are much superior to the practice missions, so that's cool. I'm actually starting to look forward to the event.

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